Originally released in 1957, Mehboob Khan's Technicolour splurge is actually a remake of the director's 1940 black-and-white effort, Aurat. Nonetheless, Mother India is quintessential popular Hindi cinema.
Radha (Nargis) is a beautiful young bride who's deserted by her farmer husband (Raaj Kumar) after he's maimed in an accident. Left to plough the barren fields herself, she's confronted by floods, food shortages and the advances of a lecherous moneylender. As if that's not enough, Radha is also charged with the responsibility of bringing up her two sons, Birju (Sunil Dutt) and Ramu (Rajendra Kumar), so it's a testimony to her resilience that she emerges as a respected figure in her village.
Interspersed with songs and some dynamic action set-pieces, Mother India's overblown narrative is awash with heroic suffering. But even now, four decades on, it's Nargis' wilful performance that still dominates, her character's indomitable matriarchal endurance a metaphor for the hardiness of the modern Indian nation.